So as most of this seems to be, this was yet another spur of the moment excursion. Everyone that was ‘owed’ days had to take them and I thought I was owed one so my little mind started running on what adventures could I have in 3 days, so on Tuesday I requested having Thursday off as an extension to my weekend.
I’d gone into over drive of ooooo Bahrain’s close, so’s Muscat, there’s Qatar too! Getting over excited as always (you should see the world trip list/plan).
I wasn’t owed any time. My heart sank.
However my manager turned around and said I could have it! I could just make it up when we were busy. A little squeak and the sudden realisation that I could actually go on an adventure was here. To Skyscanner! (Fist bumping the air like a bad 80’s movie)!
After peoples advice which generally consisted of ‘don’t bother’, I didn’t listen as “hell I don’t know when I’m going to be in the middle east, I may as well explore it!” I liked the sound of Doha with museums, markets and other attractions, so I booked the flights for the next day and began looking for accommodation.
As I’m part of (far too many) backpacking/travelling groups I joined couchsurfing a while ago but never used it and I thought, hey, lets see what’s going on here. A long while later I had a host and all I had left to do was to go to sleep, smash work and it would be go time!
Day 1 – Travelling
I’d tried to make sure that I had put what I wanted to take with me aside as I would be using my work back pack as it’s small enough to be used as a carry on but big enough to fit plenty in.
Once home, showered, packed and dressed, I made my way to the taxi rank to head on over to Dubai. In Fujairah you can catch a long, uncomfortable bus for 25dirhams or they just load a pile of random people into a taxi and it costs 40dirham each – oh it’s less time too.
Checking in was as check ins go, sitting in the airport was just the same as any airport, the flight was just like many, though Qatar airlines has a hilarious safety video that cracked me up there and back check it here, it features FC Barcelona, nearly wet myself.
Dubai from the sky is so bright!
I was due to meet my host once through passport control and then hang out with another person from couchsurfing while he was at work. We landed similar time, though we didn’t know and were messaging each other in the queue. Finally realising we got through at a similar time, he walked me to my hosts car and all was well.
When my host picked me up we chatted and chatted all the way back to his just getting to know each other, I arrived at a modest studio apartment, with a bed laid out for me.
*You can get a visa for Qatar for free – unless you’re at the boarder then you have to pay, it cost 100rials (£23). I got told that I could just turn up with a British passport and it would be fine….. it wasn’t. It was an annoying, unnecessary expense.*
So once getting up and ready we were out the door and I was off to meet up with Dhraj and my host off to work. First port of call was breakfast; this trip was also about eating good food, I mean come on we all like food. We had a wander around Souq Waqif looking for something and we tried to ‘eat local’. I had Fatayr with meat and a type of cheese (still unknown) and I tried Turkish tea…
Fatarya: It tasted lovely, but not quite breakfasty if you know what I mean.
Turkish tea looks elegant, but it has an acquired taste.
We tried going to the Museum of Islamic Art next, though both our watches were on Dubai time (an hour ahead) so while we thought it was 12 (opening time) it was really 11am. We decided to walk around the park to the far end to look at the skyline of Doha, in daylight it was amazing.
It was so quiet (might have been the ‘too early’ part but still)
I just wish that I had a better camera for some of the views.
Hopping into a taxi, we went across the city to The Pearl, neither of us were entirely sure what we would expect, but we just walked around it having a look the dock being how the other half live. After not enjoying the Turkish tea, I was hankering for some earl grey so we stopped and relaxed. It wasn’t actually filled with much, there were several stores that were waiting for companies, some buildings were still being built but it was a foodies paradise with restaurant after restaurant.
I think it’s in this cup to look good, I wasn’t convinced, give me a pot or a mug and I’m a happy bunny. #ForeverBritish
Let me just park my boat dear.
We cut it off as neither of us really fancied shopping so popped over to Katara Cultural Centre another taxi, though one that tried to over charge us. I asked where his meter was he just said 20 (rials) bearing in mind, it only cost 23 to go further from MIA to The Pearl. We asked he just said 20 again, it would cost more to go on the meter he babbled, we still wanted the meter, then he said it might cost 15/16 but he could do it for 20. We stuck to the meter… It was 15.
Reading online I knew that Katara Cultural Centre was still under construction in places so I didn’t quite know what to expect. It seemed so vast, there was a small art gallery, coffee shops and restaurants and then a variety of buildings that were having work. The thing that really grabbed our attention was being able to play in the amphitheatre. security were wandering around, looking at us yet not saying much and there looked like there was an events crew trying to do something but Dhraj and I just took photos and played on the stage, went rocky on the steps and messed around. I felt like a kid let loose in a park.
Totally looks cooler in person. 😉
Security were wandering around, looking at us yet not saying much and there looked like there was an events crew trying to do something but Dhraj and I just took photos and played on the stage, went rocky on the steps and messed around. I felt like a kid let loose in a park.
Some gelato after running around in the warmth.
We finally made our way across to MIA for it to actually be open this time, the exhibitions were awesome, it was cool to see so many awesome artefacts. I find museums exciting as you never quite know what the story behind each piece is.
We wandered around for a while and then went for a cup of tea (you can take the girl out of Britain but you can’t take the British out of the girl). It came in the most amazing tea pot ever, I was so impressed with it, it had a ‘real amount’ in it as well.
This should probably be more ‘traveley’ but hey, we all have our weaknesses!
Dhraj was changing hotels so he said goodbye and my host picked me up. Unfortunately I’d left my sunnies in Dhraj’s bag so we spent some time trying to faff and get them back – my host was fantastic in trying to help. Stomachs rumbling we gave up and went for some food, a Turkish restaurant where he ordered majbos with grilled chicken and bokhary rice.
Yes, the two of us ate all of it. Like all, well not the the mountain of rice, that seems to be a theme I’ve seen, but we gave it a good go.
It was beautiful, after dinner there is desert and we didn’t stick to the middle east, we went for ice-cream (I’ll save you the ice-cream selfie) and drove over to have a look at the skyline at night, each building was lit up and I wish that I could capture it with that of an eye. Due to all the walking around exploring I was rather tired so we made our way back.
*Please bare with me* So I’ve just been putting ‘my host’ for a level of anonymity due to my experience with my couch surfing host not being quite the experience I anticipated. Yes. I read all the reviews. Yes. I spoke to him before I agreed anything. Yes. I knew he could only host me 2/3 nights and I was looking for another place. He said his friend would host me, so I didn’t need the other one, also that we would all hang out together (including going for food the previous night – he wasn’t there). As my host had to be in work for a bit in the afternoon I was talking to other couchsurfers that lived there and they said they could show me around. He made it clear though that if you’re staying at someones you should hang out with them – fine, I understand, I’d love to hang with anyone plus I don’t really know all the etiquette yet. But that I didn’t need the others, this also meant that I turned down opportunities. I probably sound ungrateful here but please stay for now.
We got up and grabbed a starbucks and went over to The Pearl – at this point I was still wanting to know what time ‘the friend’ would be around as I could hang out with others until then, though I was again told that I didn’t need to. Once he got in touch he said he wouldn’t be very long though we just kept waiting. Time was passing as we were walking around and I was getting a little frustrated as we just sat on a bench in the sun in a place I’d already been. I just kept being told that he was coming, time keeps on ticking and we went to meet him else where. I started having doubts and feeling a bit weird, time was really getting on, we went back to the mall but apparently he couldn’t make it so ‘the friend’ sent his friend along to keep me company. I felt so frustrated, by now it was about half past 2, I got told he would be here soon. Soon? Seriously still soon?
My stomach was in knots, it didn’t feel right, I was walking round this mall feeling uncomfortable, really unsure and uncomfortable. I’d wasted a lot of my day waiting for ‘this friend’, it came to quarter past 3 and I was just so wound up, unsure, feeling awful for wanting to leave when it had been made clear that I should just do as my host had told me and I shouldn’t with others. After speaking to a fellow couchsurfer, Eslam he said that if it didn’t feel right, I didn’t have to stay. I told the new friend that I was going to meet someone else, sorry for the trouble but I wanted to go and I walked off, he then followed me. Telling me how much of an inconvenience I was and how much they were doing etc. I wanted to cry. I was unsure what to do, where to go, I just walked out and went to get a taxi. Shaking I went over to MIA to go an sit in their coffee shop for more good tea and to steal wifi.
I posted on Girls LOVE Travel group on facebook about the predicament that I was in, I’m normally so independent but for some reason I was a little shaken, be it frustration, lost in a way or just unsure what to do. (Sidenote: If you’re a female traveler join it!) The general consensus was to get a hotel and get on with it, as well as checking that I was ok (they’re lovely there). So with a cup of tea to calm me I got on my phone and booked a hotel for the evening. I was taking back my weekend!
Leaving the museum I checked into the hotel and found out that my original host had told the friend not to come at certain times (though telling me how annoyed he was that he wasn’t there) because ‘we were having so much fun’ he said that my host knew he was busy until certain times…. I had been had. I’d wasted a day because I was trying to stand on ceremony of what I was told I should do. Lesson learned and eyes opened.
But hey, couchsurfing drama turned to this:
Worse things could have happened…
So with him in the wind Eslam that had been helping me he offered to show me around. I was dubious, I thought are you kidding me, Rach just go it alone! (Talking to yourself in the third person totally helps)! But as I needed to freshen up, relax a little and get ready I said fine. I gave him a set time and said that I wouldn’t wait any longer than that due to the day, he understood.
He turned up and Eslam was lovely, he’s helped me through the day and listened as we looked around Souq Waqif and for some where to eat, he asked if a couple of friends could join. So the 4 of us met up but it being a Friday night it was packed, so we went to another restaurant.
Before we went we had a little wander around, it was so busy it being a Friday night, it was so cool to see it come alive compared to during the day. I did love all the mats and cushions from one seller sprawling into the street.
We went to a more traditional place where each table was a room with cushions and he ordered some food. If someone knows what’s what, with this trip I’ve just let them order. I wanted to try as much stuff as possible (don’t tell my parents, we have a draw in the freezer filled with ‘Rach friendly’ food).
Not sure how excited I should be because of this but it was the first time in 3 1/2 months of living in the middle east that I actually sat to eat.
I’ve heard of eating camel in the middle east, but never seen it on a menu before!
Mandy chicken and Mandy meat (probably mutton) with more bokhary rice.
With full tummies, we decided to keep the night going they spoke of a type of tea, rather Hossam seemed rather excitable and being a tea lover I was intrigued. We drove through the traffic with joke after joke, over to The Pearl where we had this famous tea. Just realised this sounds like we’re about to hit the town for a heavy night, not tea. #growingold
I was unsure at first, it was really sweet, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Eslam said it reminded him of coconut biscuits and all of a sudden I stopped thinking of it as tea and just enjoyed it as a drink.
This photo took several attempts. Hossam, myself, Ahmed and Eslam drinking karak.
There is a beautiful spot for the skyline at night, the same place my host had shown me and 4 0f us went and relaxed there. Didn’t just quickly move on, relaxed and soaked up the scenery. To either side was car after car lined up, but in front was the real show stopper. It was getting late so we needed to drop the others off to their car and then Eslam dropped me back at the hotel. I don’t think I could have asked for a better evening, it was filled with laughter, jokes, food and beauty. Felt awesome.
Getting up early was all that I had in mind and I did just that. First stop was over to the Villaggio, I’d heard big things about it, that I MUST see it. I’m going to say I was rather impressed with the fact they had an indoor gondolier section.
I was amazed at to the theming of the mall, it actually just made me want to travel to see more of the world and see it in ‘real life’ as it still felt like a mall – still worth going though!
With a ceiling painted like the sky, the mock cannal running through the middle of the mall, building faces and street lamps illuminateing the area, I was in awe, shame the shops spoiled the view!
Another starbucks for breakfast as I was in the mall. There isn’t much ‘local’ food in a mall full of western shops and eateries. I was planning where to go, Eslam said he might be free in the afternoon and as lovely and welcoming as he had been I wanted to still ‘plan a day’. I headed over to Souq Waqif to actually spend time trying to explore each alleyway. I meandered around the shops, taking a look here and there – it was lovely to be solo again, I’m not going to lie. I took my time and think I walked by every single shop and stall. The art gallery there was incredible, to just look at all the lamps and walls but it also had artists creating pieces at their stalls. If I could have brought them back, there were several that caught my eye.
There were fabric stalls everywhere, every different colour, pattern, texture that you could wish for!
It was around lunch time and Eslam said he was available and if I’d like to do something. I jumped at the chance after having such a good evening so we met up and with the time I had left it was only really good for a late lunch. We drove out of the city to another souq, it was quiet, really quiet but a beach with a long line of boats sat on the sand next to clear blue water, restaurants were paraded next to it and we decided to stop at a place with a name something beachy. (Descriptive I know).
We all succumb to the master of time and unfortunately my time in Doha was up, with another very full stomach Eslam being the gentleman he is, offered to drop me off at the airport.
Again check in was like any, the airport like others and the flight just as mundane (not that you’d want anything else) as others. Once coming back to UAE obtaining residency meant that I could go through passport control with my residence card, it was just like using an oyster card but with a fingerprint in there. Blasted through that, straight onto the metro and then as I came out I saw my bus. Could not believe my luck! The trip back seemed as slick as anything – until I got there and the bus was full I wasn’t allowed on and had to wait for the next one, 40 minutes later. The ride back was long, longer than normal, cold and it always reminds me why I take a taxi to dubai.
Compulsory plane photo.
I eventually arrive back at my hotel at around 11:30pm and as I lay on my bed I let out a bit of a cliche sigh. I had just had an amazing weekend with a slight hiccup, but life’s here for learning and experiencing.
Doha is definitely a city that I didn’t see enough of, there were more museums, forts, beaches and other places that I would have loved to have seen. A lot of building work is going on, but that’s a good thing, that shows that the city is growing and developing. Despite the issues I had, I will still look at couchsurfing again and I’m not going to knock something on one incident. Great weekend was had, Doha was awesome and I’m truely thankful to those I explored with and the fun I had.
Tip of The Trip: As obvious as it is, double check your visa’s just because you ‘think’ you know what is what, just double check to make sure.
*I would like to say that Eslam did help me with all the different names of foods and places as I would have never remembered everything by myself. Thank you!*
Here’s a few extra photos from the weekend.